IBM study: sustainability ranks among highest priorities on CEO agendas, yet lack of data insights hinders progress

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25 May, 2022


WBCSD insights



WBCSD Communications

  • Almost half (48%) of CEOs say increasing sustainability is one of their highest priorities for their organization in the next two to three years – up from roughly a third in 2021.
  • Nearly 70% of surveyed CEOs say they are directly involved in defining their organization’s sustainability strategy.
  • Over 80% of CEOs believe that their company’s sustainability investments will produce improved business results in the next five years and nearly half of CEOs (45%) think that sustainability will accelerate business growth.

Pressure is mounting from stakeholders, but lack of data insights and technological barriers stand in the way

  • More than half (51%) of surveyed CEOs cite sustainability as among their greatest challenges in the next two to three years, up from 32% in 2021, ahead of regulation (50%), cyber risk (45%), technology infrastructure (41%) and supply chain disruption (38%).
  • CEOs reported receiving the greatest pressure from board members (72%), followed by investors (57%), ecosystem partners (49%), regulators (49%) and government (46%).
  • Nearly 60% of respondents list unclear ROI and economic benefits as a leading challenge to achieving sustainability objectives, followed by a lack of insights from data (44%), and regulatory barriers (43%).
  • 35% of respondents also identify technological barriers to implementing sustainability in their organization.

CEOs are putting words into action, yet aren’t embedding sustainability strategies across their organization

  • Respondents indicate that CEO investment in sustainability has more than doubled as a percentage of revenue over the last five years.
  • Nearly two-thirds (64%) are confident they’ll achieve their sustainability goals and only 20% of CEOs surveyed believe sustainability targets announced by government for their industry were not achievable.
  • While 95% of CEOs report being at least in the piloting stage of implementing their sustainability strategy, only a quarter (23%) say they are implementing their sustainability strategies across their entire organization.